Ireland is full of breathtaking scenery and unforgettable views. It’s a place for visitors to relax, unwind, take in the sights and sounds and enjoy the spectacularly beautiful surroundings. As well as their unforgettable vistas, Ireland is also synonymous with its love of sport and, in particular, horse racing. There are a number of tracks scattered throughout the country that attract thousands of spectators on an almost weekly basis. There are currently 26 courses offering a unique day out for visitors who wish enjoy the thrill of the turf whilst taking in the leafy surrounds.
Source: Diarmuid Nolan via Twitter
There is little to compare to a day at the races in Ireland, with a number of high-profile festivals taking place throughout the year. These are ideal for those spectators who are seeking a lively atmosphere and are wishing to join in the festivities, but one of the main draws of visiting these racetracks is their unique location and the views that accompany it.
Killarney is one of the standout horse racing venues and is situated in the heart of County Kerry. The majority of their meetings are held throughout the summer, with the pleasant weather and clement climate all adding to its appeal. It is a hotspot for tourists, who finish off their day of sightseeing with a trip to the track. Whilst the course is shrouded in green, it is located close to public transport links, making it easy to reach.
The Torc mountains overlook the course, with the track sandwiched between these and the Macgillycuddy Reeks, with both creating a captivating backdrop to the turf. Rural Ireland at its best.
The atmosphere is very friendly and relaxed, with visitors of all ages traversing the venue and enjoying all of the evening action. You don’t have to be a horseracing expert or a sports fanatic to get the most out of your visit, with friendly on-course bookmakers willing to take small-stakes bets throughout the card. A program is also available containing form, information and the silks of each runner. There are many online experts including Oddschecker’s Andy Holding, who specialise in Irish racing analysis and he provides daily tips and selections that are likely to prove extremely useful for any racecourse visit.
County Kilkenny track Gowran Park is extremely popular and can rival Killarney as one of the most picturesque courses in the country. 16 meetings are held throughout the year, giving potential spectators plenty of opportunities to visit, and with both summer and winter events on the calendar, the contrasting seasonal scenery is truly spectacular. The Thyestes Handicap is one of the standout contests at the track, where visitors can enjoy distant views of the snow-topped mountain range, although winter warmers are strongly advised for this January contest.
It is set in wooded parkland and the gently undulating course gives it a stately feel. The area is surrounded by acres of countryside, many of which house stud farms and training facilities occupied by many of the top trainers, who send their inmates to Gowran Park on a regular basis. There are good transport links available to Kilkenny and it’s one of the best tracks in Ireland for those who wish to get away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world.
Ballinrobe is another popular hotspot for racegoers in Ireland and is ideally located. It lies next to Lough Carra, which is a limestone lake stretching across 4,000 acres and has a hugely relaxing feel. There are only eight meetings staged here throughout the year so it is always advised to book early, but those visiting the track won’t be disappointed by the County Mayo venue. It is the ideal place to simply switch off from the stresses of modern life and enjoy the action unfolding at the track. It is only located just 2km outside of the main town, but the course is surrounded by rolling plains and greenery which are worthy of appearing on any postcard.
Racegoers who have their eye on something completely different should seriously consider a visit to Laytown. Everything about Laytown is truly unique with just one event staged each year, which is normally in September. It remains the only race event across the UK and Ireland to be run on a beach and those who are lucky enough to take in the spectacle will not forget it in a hurry. Laytown is a small village which is located in County Neath and it truly comes alive once a year. The course is quickly assembled once the tide goes out and the unique spectacle begins. Even in September, the weather generally remains warm enough for the crowd to enjoy all of the racing. Despite access to the beach being restricted once racing is underway, all of the usual beach-based aspects remain, such as an ice cream van, cafe and burger bar, and these are joined by a beer tent and a pop-up bookmaker for the day. It is a terrific family event and spectators can enjoy the calmness of the ocean complemented by the competitive thrill of the racing. Nearby towns of Laytown and Bettystown offer a classic Irish coastal town feel and are perfect for visiting before and after the afternoon’s races.
Racing fans are spoilt for choice in Ireland and there are plenty of tracks which perfectly combine spectacular views with a lively atmosphere. Whilst few visitors can be expected to tick off all 26 courses, taking in one of two of these picturesque venues is highly recommended and is likely to cap off a wonderful visit to a beautiful country.